TRIPOLI, Libya — Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the influential second son of Moammar Gadhafi who was once seen as the great hope for reform in Libya, is clear on two points: He and his government have done nothing wrong, and they are not going to back down.
In an interview that reflected the defiance of the Gadhafi family more than two months into its efforts to put down a rebellion supported by the United States and its allies, the 38-year-old said the world had gone to war with Libya based on nothing more than rumor and propaganda.
In his telling, he has been betrayed by his "best friend," former economic affairs director Mahmoud Jibril, who defected to join the rebels. The government is besieged by al-Qaida. And President Barack Obama has proved no different than his predecessor, George W. Bush.
The comments underscore the uncompromising stance of the Libyan government at a time when the fighting has stalemated and NATO faces internal squabbling. Although there had been indications this month that Seif Gadhafi was interested in a diplomatic solution to the crisis that has divided his nation, the rebels rejected any solution that would involve Seif Gadhafi taking power.
During the hourlong interview, his tone suggested that the core decisionmakers in Tripoli are now in no hurry to find a political way out.
As if to bolster that point, forces loyal to the Gadhafi regime on Sunday heavily shelled the besieged city of Misrata, the only rebel outpost in western Libya. A City Council spokesman said 17 people were killed and more than 100 were injured. Government troops also attacked rebel positions in the strategically critical eastern city of Ajdabiya, sending some opposition fighters fleeing back to their de facto capital, Benghazi.
One month after the uprising, the United Nations authorized a no-fly zone over Libya in March to counter the government's attacks on civilians. Obama has said that international military action saved countless Libyan lives, by preventing Moammar Gadhafi's men from carrying out a massacre in Benghazi.
But in Seif Gadhafi's view, Obama has it all wrong.
"We want the Americans tomorrow to send a fact-finding mission to find out what happened in Libya. We want Human Rights Watch to come here and to find out exactly what happened," he said. "We are not afraid of the International Criminal Court. We are confident and sure that we didn't commit any crime against our people."
Relaxing on a lounge chair in a turtleneck sweater over the weekend, Seif Gadhafi spoke confidently in fluent English without any advisers present. Every word was uttered with the passion of absolute conviction, every question parried with a version of events that contradicts conclusions reached by observers.
He said his father's opponents are brutal terrorists and gangsters, led by al-Qaida, who will soon collapse under their internal divisions. He deemed evidence that his forces fired on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators and killed hundreds of them as categorically false.
The younger Gadhafi drew a comparison to the reports of weapons of mass destruction that Bush cited in the run-up to the war in Iraq. "It's exactly like the WMD," Seif Gadhafi said. "WMD, WMD, WMD, go and attack Iraq. Civilians, civilians, civilians, go and attack Libya. It's the same thing."